HARRISBURG — A report summarizing the testimony of thousands of Pennsylvanians debating whether the state should legalize adult recreational use of marijuana should be complete later this month, a spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said Wednesday.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced in December that Pennsylvania should begin exploring the idea of whether legalizing marijuana use makes sense, particularly in light of efforts to legalize the drug in neighboring states.
Fetterman visited every county in the state in a series of listening sessions, he’d said was intended to find “out where people are” on the idea of legalizing marijuana.
The tour came as one of his first acts after taking office after being elected lieutenant governor in 2018. Fetterman upset the incumbent lieutenant governor Mike Stack in the Democratic primary.
More than 30,000 people submitted written comments through an online form created by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office as part of the listening tour effort, said Christina Kauffman, a spokeswoman for Fetterman. She declined to offer any more data about what the report will show because it’s release is just a few weeks away.
Despite Fetterman’s tour, it’s far from clear that Pennsylvania is anywhere close to following Illinois, which became the 11th state to allow adults to legally use marijuana in June. There is strong opposition from Republicans who hold the majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.
The House health and judiciary committees in early June held a hearing focusing on potential problems faced by gun owners over the conflict between state efforts to allow marijuana possession despite the federal ban on use of the drug.
“I’m opposed” to the idea of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, said Republican state Rep. Kathy Rapp, whose district covers eastern Crawford County, the chairwoman of the House health committee. She said that rather than move legislation to legalize marijuana, she expects her committee will hold more hearings on the social impacts of marijuana legalization. The next hearing will likely explore marijuana use and mental health, Rapp said.
Senate Republican leaders have been equally resistant to the idea. After Wolf suggested the topic was worth exploring, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman of Centre County said, “ I will do everything in my power to prevent legalization of recreational marijuana.”
Lawmakers in both New York and New Jersey debated marijuana legalization extensively, but thus far neither state has moved to allow recreational use. New Jersey in June passed legislation making medical marijuana available to more people, but the state stopped short of allowing recreational marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization tracking marijuana laws across the country.
New York lawmakers expanded that state’s law decriminalizing marijuana possession, but didn’t act on fully legalizing recreational marijuana use, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
Pennsylvania is one of 33 states that allow marijuana to be used for medical reasons. In addition to Illinois, 10 other states have legalized recreational use of the drug — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.